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Dan Cohn-Sherbok

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date: 16 May 2022

In the modern world, the Jewish community has fragmented into a wide range of different groupings, each with their own interpretation of the tradition. Nonetheless, all Jews — whether Orthodox or belonging to the various non-Orthodox branches of the faith — embrace the Jewish emphasis on caring for the sick and those who suffer. Even though the central theological tenets of the tradition are no longer universally accepted within the Jewish world, Jews — whatever their religious orientation–endorse the Jewish emphasis on healthcare. Yet, it must be emphasized that there is a difference of opinion within the Jewish world about a wide range of contentious medical issues. For example, although many Orthodox Jews regard artificial insemination where insemination is by the husband, there are serious reservations about such a practice where there is an outside anonymous donor. Here, Orthodox authorities have argued that this would pose grave moral problems. Despite this ruling, however, there are many Jews today who favour artifi cial insemination regardless of the donor. Abortion, too, is a topic where there is considerable disagreement. Health care workers must thus be aware of the fact that the Jewish community is no longer unified by belief and practice. When dealing with strictly Orthodox patients, Jewish Law should be followed rigorously. However, in the vast majority of cases Jewish patients will not feel bound by prescriptions found in rabbinic sources. In such instances it is important to ascertain the degree to which Jewish Law will need to be followed or could be set aside.

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